Tag: terror

Indiscriminate wickedness in London

Thursday, 23 March, 2017 0 Comments

The sheer evil of fanatics like the one responsible for yesterday’s terror attack in London is incredible. The crowded places they pick and the massive suffering they inflict suggest a mindset that’s beyond comprehension, but in an attempt to learn something, anything, about their strategies, this blogger turned to The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror by Bernhard Lewis, which was published in 2003. He writes:

“For the new-style terrorists, the slaughter of innocent and uninvolved civilians is not ‘collateral damage’. It is the prime objective. Thanks to the rapid development of the media, and especially of television, the more recent forms of terrorism are aimed not at specific and limited enemy objectives but at world opinion. Their primary purpose is not to defeat or even to weaken the enemy militarily but to gain publicity and to inspire fear — a psychological victory…”

Concerning the willingness of the perpetrators to kill and maim the innocent and the ruthlessness with which they execute their missions, Lewis asks if any of these actions can be justified in terms of Islam. The answer is a clear no, and he adds:

“The callous destruction of thousands in the World Trade Center, including many who were not American, some of them Muslims from Muslim countries, has no justification in Islamic doctrine or law and no precedent in Islamic history. Indeed, there are few acts of comparable deliberate and indiscriminate wickedness in human history. These are not just crimes against humanity and against civilization; they are also acts — from a Muslim point of view — of blasphemy when those who perpetrate such crimes claim to be doing so in the name of God, His Prophet, and His Scriptures.”

After the 9/11 massacre in New York, the response in the Arab press was, to quote Lewis, “an uneasy balance between denial and approval”. Let’s hope that the responses to yesterday’s outrage will be clear in their condemnation of this “indiscriminate wickedness”, this “blasphemy” and these ongoing “crimes against humanity”.

Bernard Lewis


Martin McGuinness obituary

Tuesday, 21 March, 2017 0 Comments

The death has taken place of Martin McGuinness, a key figure in the IRA terror group that killed more than 1,500 people before its political wing, Sinn Féin, embraced the compromises its peaceful opponents had articulated from the 1960s onwards.

Martin McGuinness was a cold-blooded killer who morphed into a dove but his many victims should not be forgotten in the coming rush to sanctify a legacy and burnish a myth. The poet Desmond Egan summarized the cruel futility of McGuinness’ quest in The Northern Ireland Question. It’s concise but the four lines perfectly capture the random barbarity that Martin McGuinness once practiced and endorsed.

The Northern Ireland Question

two wee girls
were playing tig near a car

how many counties would you say
are worth their scattered fingers?

Desmond Egan


Song of the Year: And Dream of Sheep

Tuesday, 20 December, 2016 0 Comments

“Little light will guide them to me.” The line has a special relevance at Christmas, and the terror killings of innocent Christmas revellers in Berlin lend it extra poignancy. And Dream of Sheep by Kate Bush is thus deemed our Song of the Year.

Prior to her 22-date run of sold-out London concerts in 2014, Kate Bush spent three days submerged in a tank filled with water. The goal was to create a sense of authenticity while making a video for And Dream of Sheep, a song about a woman lost at sea. The clip — which features the singer strapped in a lifejacket, hoping to be rescued — was created for her return to the stage, during which she performed The Ninth Wave, her 1985 song cycle.

Although originally released on Hounds of Love, the song has been reworked and the new version appears on Kate Bush and the K Fellowship: Before the Dawn, a live album that captures her 2014 show on three CDs and four vinyl albums.

“Little light shining
Little light will guide them to me
My face is all lit up
If they find me racing white horses
They’ll not take me for a buoy
Let me be weak, let me sleep and dream of sheep.”

Kate Bush


9/11 at 15

Sunday, 11 September, 2016 0 Comments

For the people who went to work in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on the morning of 11 September 2001 and were mercilessly slaughtered; for the firefighters and the police who gallantly responded to the calls for help and were obliterated; for the passengers on the planes and the flight crews whose lives were extinguished in a terrifying moment, this poignant memorial is dedicated to you and yours.

“Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose. A pity that we let them pick the time and place of the challenge, but we can and we will make up for that.” — Christopher Hitchens


Mrs Merkel and her Humpty Dumpty great fall

Saturday, 3 September, 2016 1 Comment

According to the polls, the anti-establishment Alternative für Deutschland party has overtaken Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats party in the run-up to tomorrow’s state election in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. If the prediction becomes reality, it would represent a massive shock and setback for Merkel in her home state.

Why this now? Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan noted that Merkel, without consulting the people, opened up Germany to 800,000 migrants from the Middle East last year. In the end, more than a million arrived, and 300,000 are expected this year. Those who weren’t consulted are now left to deal with the consequences: Social unease, political division, increased crime, fear of terror, fear of burqas, sexual assaults by migrants and numerous other bits of nastiness that Merkel and her clique remain insulated from. As Noonan writes:

But there was a fundamental problem with the decision that you can see rippling now throughout the West. Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be.

Nothing in their lives will get worse. The challenge of integrating different cultures, negotiating daily tensions, dealing with crime and extremism and fearfulness on the street — that was put on those with comparatively little, whom I’ve called the unprotected. They were left to struggle, not gradually and over the years but suddenly and in an air of ongoing crisis that shows no signs of ending — because nobody cares about them enough to stop it.

Falling off the wall The powerful show no particular sign of worrying about any of this. When the working and middle class pushed back in shocked indignation, the people on top called them “xenophobic,” “narrow-minded,” “racist.” The detached, who made the decisions and bore none of the costs, got to be called “humanist,” “compassionate,” and “hero of human rights.”

Merkel is falling in the polls, as Germans realize what she’s done to them. And around the world we see the rise of Trump-like populist campaigns, appealing to citizens who feel that their rulers despise them. If the rulers feel neither loyalty nor empathy toward the ruled, the ruled can be expected to return the favor. The results, unless the rulers change their ways in a hurry, are unlikely to be pretty.

When the people of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern go to the polls, Chancellor Merkel will be rubbing shoulders with the global elite at the G20 Summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. Local concerns appear trivial from such a great distance and such a great height, but Humpty Dumpty did take a great fall, and neither all the king’s horses nor all the king’s men, nor a media and cultural apparatus could pick up the pieces again.


From Nice to Munich, humanity will prevail

Saturday, 23 July, 2016 0 Comments

The French filmmaker and photographer Fabien Ecochard made this “Hommage à tous les Niçois. Parce que Nice est et restera toujours Nissa la Bella.” Despite the Bastille Day terror on the Promenade des Anglais, “Nice is and will remain Nissa la Bella,” he says.

In the third attack on civilians in Europe in eight days, an 18-year-old German-Iranian killed nine people and wounded a further 21 at a shopping center in Munich last night before shooting himself. As in Nice, the victims were killed randomly, cruelly.

But like Nice, Munich will recover from this horror. Humanity will prevail.


FinTech WOTD: Tokenization

Tuesday, 19 July, 2016 0 Comments

FinTech? It’s a portmanteau word created from “Financial Technology.” It’s hot because it threatens to grab some power from the bloated banks and give the the entire byzantine money business a much-needed shakeup. Heard of Bitcoin? It’s the most popular FinTech cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency? It’s a form of digital currency that uses cryptography for regulation and security. No one is really sure who “mined” it, but the open-source software underpinning it has a shady history. Heard about the Blockchain? It’s where cryptocurrency transactions get recorded. It operates like a public ledger and once data has been entered, it cannot be altered.

All this brings us to our FinTech WOTD (Word of the Day): Tokenization.

Tokenization replaces sensitive data with unique symbols. These “tokens” enable users to retain essential information about their credit cards and transactions without compromising security. Tokenization also turns complex information into short, useful codes.

If you’re still not convinced about the power of FinTech to do good, don’t forget that its advocates say it may help the underbanked to become, well, more banked. Win win.

Language note: There’s tokenization and then there’s tokenism. The latter is the policy and practice of making a superficial gesture towards members of minority groups. Adding a token employee to a workforce usually is intended to create the appearance of diversity — racial, religious, sexual — and so avert accusations of discrimination. Following the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice, Channel 4 was accused of tokenism by putting the hijab-wearing Muslim Fatima Manji in the anchor’s chair.


The barbarity of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel

Friday, 15 July, 2016 0 Comments

The terrorist responsible for murdering up to 84 people by driving a truck into a Bastille Day celebration in Nice has been identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a delivery driver and petty criminal. How do we respond to such barbarity? With more useless hashtags? Ineffective cartoons? Meaningless interdenominational prayer ceremonies? Hollow declarations of “je suis Nizza”? Hand-wringing gestures by political leaders? We’ve had lots of those in the past but they made little impression on Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. Maybe we should consider the words of J.R.R. Tolkien:

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” — The Two Towers


#Brexit: Michel Houellebecq makes his move

Tuesday, 21 June, 2016 0 Comments

10 September, 2001: The publishers of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform, Groupe Flammarion, who had been charged with hate speech in France, publicly apologized for any offense its anti-Islamic themes might have caused. The book ends with an Islamist terror attack on a resort in Thailand. On the following day, an Islamist terror attack did take place, not in Asia, but in the USA. However, the 2002 Islamist atrocity in Bali was remarkably similar to the one described in Platform.

7 January 2015: Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission is published. It depicts a not-too-distant Europe losing the cultural civil wars and France drifting towards an Islamic takeover. As fate would have it, the publication date coincided with the Islamist massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

23 June 2016: The day Britain votes on whether to leave the European Union, Michel Houellebecq’s exhibition of his own photography opens in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo. Houellebecq is cheering for Brexit: “I’d love it. I’d love it if the English gave the starting signal for the dismantling. I hope they won’t disappoint me. I’ve been against the [European] idea from the start. It’s not democratic, it’s not good,” he says in a Financial Times profile published at the weekend.

“I really like England, I really like the fact of it having been the only country, for quite a while, to have resisted Hitler. I’d really like it to leave, to signal the independence movement.” Michel Houellebecq

The first picture in his Rester vivant exhibition shows a angry reddish dusk seen from his apartment. A line from of his one of his poems: “Il est temps de faire vos jeux” (“It’s time to place your bets”) is superimposed onto the gory sky. Another image, France #014 (1994), shows the word “Europe” carved in concrete. With Houellebecq, the timing is always significant. Place your bets.

Irlande


Marshall McLuhan: today’s media and today’s terror

Wednesday, 15 June, 2016 1 Comment

After Larossi Abballa had killed a French police officer and his partner near Paris on Monday evening, he posted a 12-minute video from the scene to Facebook Live. Speaking in a mix of French and Arabic, he smiled evilly as he urged his viewers to target the police, declared that the Euro 2016 football tournament would “be like a cemetery,” and pondered what to do about the dead couple’s three-year-old son.

“When people get close together they get more savagely impatient with each other,” said Marshall McLuhan in a television interview in 1977. Anticipating the arrival of Facebook Live, he accurately predicted the downsides of social media platforms: “Village people aren’t that much in love with each other, and the global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.”

With France in despair and the European Union in disarray, McLuhan foresaw the current rage, the hooliganism and the hatred of the elites: “All forms of violence are a quest for identity… Identity is always accompanied by violence… Ordinary people find the need for violence as they lose their identities, so it’s only the threat to people’s identity that makes them violent.”

McLuhan also anticipated that the likes of Larossi Abballa would use social media to broadcast their nihilism: “Terrorists, hijackers — these are people minus identity. They are determined to make it somehow, to get coverage, to get noticed.”

And in the same interview he predicted the current clash of civilizations: “The literate man can carry his liquor; the tribal man cannot. That’s why in the Moslem world and in the native world booze is impossible. However, literacy also makes us very accessible to ideas and propaganda. The literate man is the natural sucker for propaganda. You cannot propagandize a native. You can sell him rum and trinkets, but you cannot sell him ideas. Therefore, propaganda is our Achilles Heel, our weak point”

Note: Four hours after Larossi Abballa had made his statement on Facebook Live, French police stormed the house in Magnanville, and shot him dead. (The three-year-old boy was unharmed.)


Apple is losing more than the name game

Tuesday, 22 March, 2016 1 Comment

With the announcement of a new phone, called the iPhone SE, and a new iPad Pro, “we now have a dizzying number of choices to make when considering which Apple smartphone or tablet to buy, and all have almost identical sounding names,” wrote Nick Statt yesterday in a Verge article titled Apple is losing the name game. But it’s not just the name game that’s being lost. The thrill is gone, as the late, great B.B King put it.

A smaller iPhone, a cheaper watch, a new iPad Pro… It was as everyone had expected. On the social media channels, one could feel the lack of excitement and the eagerness for the event to end. Truly, the Steve Jobs era is over. Yesterday’s highlight, if one could call it that, was Tim Cook’s criticism of the FBI.
Apple Watch The Apple CEO hit the US intelligence and security service hard right from the start of his keynote, challenging the agency on unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists. This was the wealthy, powerful Cook playing the underdog, the good guy in a fight with the bad guys. But following this morning’s terror attacks in Brussels, we can expect more demands for even more power for the intelligence and security services as the fanatics seek to turn our cities into war zones. And it won’t stop at unlocking their phones, either.

Apple has built its devoted following on people who delight in cool new things. Encryption is very important, no doubt, but Tim Cook’s job is to develop and deliver products that will actually enthuse Apple’s customers. He’s not doing that. Tellingly, Jony Ive, the company’s Chief Design Officer, did not attend yesterday’s event. Maybe he was at his desk, designing something that will bring back the thrill that’s gone.